Take note on creative, collaborative and consciously made stationery

By Sujata Burman

“Pith means the essence of something,” says Liam Goward, a graphic designer and one half of the Northumberland-based stationery studio, which he runs with printer Andrew Hardie. “We kept coming back to the core of what a notebook or sketchbook was,” he continues, sharing how they landed on the name of the brand. Goward and Hardie, who heads up his family’s book printing factory, connected when working on projects together.

Theirs is the classic designer- printer relationship – and, sharing the same ambition, they launched Pith in 2020.“It was a dream of both wanting to do stationery – me wanting to design and Andrew wanting to produce it,” Goward explains. Initially, their passion project didn’t have a definite business plan. “We thought, even if it's just for our creative souls, we can come out of the pandemic and at least have created something that means something to us.” It was also about moving away from the “nasty binding” you often see in book production, and looking to the local when producing their products.

Sustainability and functionality is at the core of what Pith does; their aim is to create something valuable, without damaging the environment. They tested various paper mills to find the right fit, and sourced covers from a material made from post- consumer waste, which the pair describe as “honest and earthy”. From a design perspective, Goward wanted the exposed details of the binding and recycled hardboard to be visible, rather than covered as many books do, to show the process and the beauty behind it.

“I wanted to take a medical look at it,” he says of the stripped-back aesthetic, hoping its raw simplicity inspires those who create work on the pages. The collection of sketchbooks, notebooks, planners and pads also considers those who might use the stationery beyond a conventional indoor setting. A flexible cover allows the books to be transported in pockets, and a natural colour palette of earthy terracotta, “hunter green and imperial blue, reflects the outdoor environment”.

Working locally goes beyond materials, too. Pith’s stationery is all made in-house at its beach-side factory, and collaborations with Northumberland’s creative community have been key in shaping the business. During the early stages, artist Dave Watson asked for a lifetime supply of sketchbooks if they didn’t end up launching the brand. Other local illustrators and designers provided constructive insight – such as a desire for the notebooks to lay flat, allowing full use of the paper – and confirmed that they value “a responsible, transparent manufacturing process and sourcing of materials”.

Goward and Hardie are constantly striving for improvement, asking themselves “How can we reduce our impact? How can we source things even closer to us?” Their topline is always to “create functional paper materials for creatives, while causing minimal environmental impact”. We’ll be taking notes – in one of Pith’s books, of course.